This coupling is really starting to grow on me. With this episode and the next, we’re seeing the connection grow, and while there are still certain missteps in the pacing/editing of the show, the developing friendship/romance keeps me hooked.
Before the drama aired, I was wondering how the age difference would play out. Funny enough, I don’t think it plays out at all — I don’t think about their ages at all while watching, which to me means they’ve been successful. Lee Min-ho does look younger than Sohn Ye-jin, but not by too much; I think he passes credibly for mid-late 20s, and she looks her age. It works for me.
SONG OF THE DAY
Personal Taste OST – “가슴이 뭉클” (My heart is moved) by SeeYa [ Download ]
EPISODE 5 RECAP
This episode opens with the title splash “Project to Make Her a Woman,” which refers to Kae-in’s request in the last episode to make a woman of her. Right off the we open with a classic misdirect: they awake in bed together — Jin-ho’s — to the shock of both. After the alcohol-fueled activities of the night before, it takes a moment to clear their groggy heads and recall how they ended up here.
A flashback takes us back, when Jin-ho suggests that Kae-in make Chang-ryul regret having left her. She grabs his leg to beg him to help her: “I want to be a woman who’s like a woman.”
While this sounds rather stupid in English, it has a more poetic ring in Korean. She’s not saying she wants to be a woman who is strictly “feminine”; she wants to be a woman who makes people aware that she’s a woman. There is a fine but significant distinction, and I would have major issues with the former (because women aren’t only women if they’re pretty!) but I can see the value in the latter.
Jin-ho, however, interprets that phrase more literally, as most of us probably would. She explains that she doesn’t want to hear those words — that she doesn’t come across as a woman — again. Plus, he ought to understand her feelings, having been born a man but being unable to fully live as one. Y’know, ’cause of the GAAAY. (Will that get old? I suppose so, but I’m clearly 12 because I giggle every time.)
By the time they relocate the drinking to his room, both are speaking in that slow, mumbly way that comes after a sixer of beer. (Or two bottles of soju, in her case. How much do I love that she’s more hardcore a drinker than he is?)
Jin-ho doesn’t want to entangle himself in her life and turns her down. In case she didn’t get it, Chang-ryul broke up with her because she didn’t sleep with him. When a man loves a woman, he naturally desires physical contact, whether it’s holding her or something more.
Kae-in knows this, but wants to be a woman who is loved anyway — a woman who attracts his devotion whether or not she sleeps with the guy. She’s not anti-sex, but would rather have a love that trumps sex.
Back to our morning scene, where Kae-in thanks Jin-ho warmly, saying, “You’re like a friend my mother has given me.” She reminds him that he agreed to help her last night — only, he doesn’t remember because he has blacked out. Or so he says.
Kae-in uses his own tactic against him to invent things he told her while drunk, and when he balks, he gives himself away. He sighs that they can give it a try, even if it seems impossible. Excited, Kae-in hugs him happily, which catches him off-guard and makes him uncomfortable.
In the morning, In-hee rips into a hungover Chang-ryul for not coming home to finish their talk. So much for her insistence that they stay out of each other’s lives — looks like that only goes one way, huh?
In-hee wants him to move out, seeing as she only has about five bucks to her name after spending it all on the wedding. How’s that for some faulty logic for you? (“Landlord, I used all my money, therefore I should stay and you should leave!”) Chang-ryul points out that this is his house, and it was her idea to end the relationship, not his. I’d say he’s got a point.
Kae-in sucks up to Jin-ho to persuade him to begin her makeover project immediately. Using her penchant for sweat pants as a jumping-off point for Lesson #1, he criticizes her practice of going out on dates dressed like this. Kae-in defends her choice, saying that she was so eager to see Chang-ryul that she would run out without changing, but that just proves his point. A man doesn’t want a woman to look too eager or desperate.
A note pops up onscreen to convey this tip: An attractive woman has dignity. In fact, making a man wait can be one of her charms. Jin-ho says that if she can figure out why women always make men wait ten minutes when meeting them on dates, she’s on her way to uncovering the secret to being a real woman. (You mean other than perpetual lateness? So I’ve been a “real woman” all this time by accident?)
A woman must have confidence that a man won’t leave even if she’s late, so Kae-in needs to work on her patience, Jin-ho declares, and orders her to hold her head underwater. She’s ready to pop up immediately, but he holds her head still to teach her patience. Apparently his idea of patience equals greater lung capacity. Hey ladies, didja know that guys really dig girls with big lungs?
The next lesson makes a little more sense as Jin-ho shuts Kae-in in a storeroom and tells her that under no circumstances may she leave the room for an hour. He tests her periodically by suggesting food breaks or faking warnings about fire, and Kae-in gullibly pops out every time, proving his point that she’s too impatient. Isn’t it a comfort to know that the next time there’s a fire, she can stay in the storeroom, confident in the knowledge that she died a patient woman?
(I tease out of affection, really. This exercise is actually applicable to Kae-in because he’s remembering how she jumped to meet Chang-ryul last night, unable to stick to her conviction to ignore his call. She could really benefit by thinking and waiting before acting impetuously. It’s just not so relevant in cases of emergency.)
Now on to comportment lessons. (I love that when he demonstrates how to walk with a light footfall, she’s taking a look at his butt. Hey, no judgment. I’d be taking advantage of any opportunity, myself.)
When she inevitably drops the glass cup from her head and breaks it (cup, not head), he kneels to pick up the broken shards and grumbles about her clumsiness. His words are irritated but Kae-in reads the concern in them, which she finds touching. Smiling warmly, she says, “Let’s be friends for a long time.”
At mealtime, Kae-in faces another tough challenge: restraining her appetite. Jin-ho thinks that most men aren’t attracted to women who gorge themselves, although Kae-in makes a (pretty logical) defense for it. If a woman didn’t eat a thing, couldn’t the man interpret that to mean that she finds his company so distasteful it ruined her appetite? Yup, my gluttony really is praise for my date! I’m totally using that one.
Sang-jun and Young-sun both arrive at the house at the same time, and join the two at the dinner table, making for another awkward conversation of misunderstood innuendos.
Young-sun assumes that Sang-jun is here to see his boyfriend, and makes knowing comments about their relationship that make Sang-jun increasingly confused. Like how he must be dying to see Jin-ho all the time, given how he drops by all the time even though they work together every day.
At first he smiles and goes along, but finally the cat is out of the bag when Young-sun says she’s totally cool with it, and has a lot of gay friends anyway. Kae-in tries to shush her friend, reminding her that Jin-ho hates any mention of his gay status — and, well, there’s no way to misinterpret that, is there?
Jin-ho apologizes to his friend for letting this situation come to this, as both of them have been mistaken as gay. He’s expecting a big reaction, but Sang-jun hilariously accepts this in stride. If this is the only way Jin-ho can keep living here, he’ll have to “help in earnest.” Girding his loins (bad use of phrase?), Sang-jun vows, “I’m not your hyung anymore, I’ll be your lover. It won’t be familiar at first, but you’ll get used to it!”
In fact, Sang-jun embraces this new role with gusto, and gleefully starts to act the part of Jin-ho’s gay lover. Yeah, it’s a cheap gimmick but it’s also hilarious how Sang-jun starts to add effeminate gestures and speech patterns into the mix. (I hope people aren’t offended by Sang-jun’s shtick. It’s his assumption of how he might act as a gay man, not a representation of a REAL gay man, if that makes it any better.)
When Jin-ho kicks him out of his room while the ladies watch, Sang-jun bursts out in a voice that now contains some falsetto, “Honey, let’s talk it out. Honey!” (The word he employs is jagi, which is used here as an endearment.) He tells them sadly, “My honey is so cold.”
Sang-jun explains that Jin-ho’s reaction is because he hadn’t wanted to be outed by other people. He finds a sympathetic listener in Young-sun, who offers encouraging words while he acts hurt over Jin-ho’s indifference to his sensitive feelings.
Sorry to have broken her word again (about mentioning the GAAAY), Kae-in kneels in penitence, holding her arms up like a punished child. We get another sign that he’s softening to her, because even though he brings up their contract — the one wherein she promised never to bring up his sexual orientation — he doesn’t hold her to their terms, and instead gives her one last pass.
Sensing that she’s safe, Kae-in tells Jin-ho she has another job interview, and uses some of her wiles again to beg him to help her. She’s adorable as she pleads in an exaggerated way (not too far off from that Oppa-Pout-Wiggle maneuver that has been known to melt the resistance of more than a few men), and he can’t help it — he smiles a teeny bit too.
Thus Jin-ho ends up mixing a face pack out of household ingredients. Although Jin-ho’s participation is reluctant at best, it’s not too far off from Kae-in’s gay-buddy fantasy after all.
Jin-ho answers a call from his mother, who also happens to be having her own face-mask bonding session with Hye-mi. Kae-in listens curiously, and gleans from the conversation that Jin-ho is speaking with a woman. He has the unusual habit of addressing his mother by her first name, which supports Kae-in’s misconception.
Hearing Jin-ho’s accommodating responses to this woman, Kae-in urges him to nip this thing in the bud. He shouldn’t give women the wrong idea and let them think he’s available! If they have no shot with him, it’s really kinder to cut things off at the start! Or… is he bi? Sighing, Jin-ho informs her that the woman was his mother.
Mention of mothers makes Kae-in wistful to think of her own, and that reaction stirs Jin-ho’s sympathies. He sits by Kae-in and asks about her mother. Kae-in explains that she was five when her mother died, but oddly enough, she doesn’t have any memories of her.
It’s sweet of Jin-ho to suggest that it may be because losing her mother was too much for a 5-year-old to handle, so she subconsciously forgot in order to protect herself. Aww. The thought may well be true, but it’s the fact that he says it in a generous spirit that makes it a nice moment, and Kae-in feels it too. She leans her head on his shoulder and says, “I haven’t told you this, have I? Welcome to my home.”
Too bad that the mask makes them both break out in spots in the morning. Oops! So much for all-natural ingredients! (It turns out that one of the ingredients, a kelp-based powder, triggered the reaction.)
Chang-ryul engineers a run-in with Do-bin at the gym, but unlike Jin-ho, his tactics are pretty transparent. Do-bin receives him with professional courtesy, but also drops a hint that Chang-ryul isn’t exactly making a solid impression, what with his complicated love life. He’s found that people with complicated personal lives may have complicated professional lives as well. As a result, President Han tells Chang-ryul that they’re going to need to alter their game plan.
Meanwhile, Do-bin calls Professor Park Chul-han to request his assistance in judging the project, offering to send the materials to him in England. Apparently this is not the first time Do-bin has made the request, and it’s not the first time he has been declined, either, so he decides he’ll have to try a different tactic.
Kae-in’s interview has been another flop, and she busies herself at home with a new furniture project, painting over discarded items from a neighbor’s trash pile.
Young-sun comments that she and Jin-ho must be getting along now, if they’re giving themselves facials. Kae-in says she’s used to his curt way of talking now, and that every once in a while, he says something quite touching. Reading between the lines (and picking up on Kae-in’s sentimentality), Young-sun warns her not to fall in love with a gay man. That way tragedy lies!
Do-bin rings at the door asking for Park Chul-han’s daughter, and Kae-in panics, thinking that he’s been sent by her father. She’s dead if he finds out that she’s rented the room and taken out a loan!
Her fears are assuaged when Do-bin explains his reason for being here. He recognizes Kae-in from the wedding and the restaurant, and supposes that she’s Jin-ho’s friend. He is also hoping that Professor Park’s daughter might help convince the man to help in his museum judging, but she apologizes for not having that much sway over her father. Do-bin accepts this politely, although he adds that he had thought her quite courageous, but sees that she lacks that confidence when dealing with her father.
At work, Jin-ho and Sang-jun are still trying to crack the nut of Sanggojae’s mystique. There must be a reason for its significance, but they’re not seeing it.
Kae-in calls Jin-ho to check in on him and sighs over failing yet another interview. She asks if he can home early for dinner, and he gives a noncommittal “We’ll see” (which we can interpret to mean “Probably” since he didn’t immediately decline). Sang-jun can’t resist the chance to tease him, and I think I love every single thing this man says. He has way too much fun poking fun at Jin-ho The Newly Domesticated.
In-hee calls to reclaim their promised dinner, however, which delays his evening. He’s reluctant to miss dinner with Kae-in, so he agrees to have a drink and suggests postponing the dinner for a later date.
Manipulative In-hee tells Jin-ho that she WAS going to give him tips regarding an upcoming industry party, “But we won’t have enough time just over drinks.” Shrewd bitch! She’s really earning her hateful evil wench title, isn’t she? I do love to hate her.
Over dinner, In-hee explains how she moved in with Kae-in in her last year of high school, after her parents died. Kae-in kept following her around asking how she could help, but that only made In-hee feel pathetic, which made her want to yell, “Stop pretending to be nice.” She’s expecting Jin-ho to sympathize with her (and I actually can see her point, even if it is ungrateful), but Jin-ho’s a good egg; he responds, “She’s not pretending, she IS nice.”
In-hee says that she since she was always being given things by Kae-in (the word used has the connotation of freeloading), she wanted to steal something from her, to see if she’d still be so nice in such a circumstance. Jin-ho tells her, “That seems foolish. If you chose to betray a friend like that, you should have at least been happy through the end.”
Rather than take offense, In-hee finds comfort in Jin-ho’s words that she was foolish for choosing bad behavior but doing it poorly. If she’s a “clumsy bad person,” at least that means that badness doesn’t come to her easily, right? Ha, that’s not thinking the glass is half-full, it’s like insisting that a glass is nearly full because it’s still got dregs in it. And somehow the word “dregs” seems pretty appropriate when talking about In-hee, doesn’t it?
All the while, Kae-in sets the table and waits for Jin-ho to come home. As the night wears on, she heads outside to wait in front of the gate. It’s sad and you want to yell at her for waiting, but I suppose her steadfastness is part of her appeal, and if she could wait for Chang-ryul, surely Jin-ho’s worth the time.
On the drive home, In-hee can’t reconcile herself to thinking Jin-ho is gay, and asks if he really can’t love a woman: “Why do I keep feeling you are a man?”
(One thing that keeps sticking out to me is the use of “as a man” and “as a woman” in Korean as carrying the weight of cultural expectations in ways that extend far beyond gender. Or should I say biological sex, since gender is a social construct. When I watch the drama, the Korean dialogue doesn’t trip me up, but then I wince when I translate some lines that seem to suggest Jin-ho isn’t a real man because he’s gay. The characters are not putting Jin-ho down as being less than a “real man” — they’re saying that he, as a gay man, is unable to identify fully with the experience of being a mainstream, heterosexual male in Korean society. And when In-hee says Jin-ho feels “like a man” to her, she means she is sexually attracted to him, and if he were truly gay she wouldn’t. But I do feel uncomfortable with the semantics of that, and this speaks to Korea’s relative homogeneity as a culture, and how much harder it must be for Koreans to identify as homosexual than, say, in the Western world.)
Jin-ho drops In-hee off at home just as Chang-ryul arrives to see them. To his eye, the scene looks much cozier than it actually is, and he challenges In-hee angrily — what is she doing? Is she deliberately trying to look pathetic so he’ll let go of her? (That’s a pretty good insult, actually. I may not be learning much from this drama but it IS giving me a lot of one-liners to tuck away for future use!)
In-hee says that she’s done with Chang-ryul now, and she’s looking out for her future. She doesn’t know if Jin-ho is part of that, but she is interested in him, “because he’s different from you. That’s all I need.” Ouch!
The fact that it’s Jin-ho is particularly unacceptable to Chang-ryul, and when In-hee goes off on how miserable he is, he slaps her. Omo! And just when I was starting to feel sorry for him.
Chang-ryul blames In-hee for making him treat Kae-in poorly, while In-hee blames Chang-ryul for not properly breaking up with Kae-in and therefore setting off the whole wedding fiasco. These two really can’t take responsibility for their own actions, can they?
On the way home, Jin-ho stops to buy sweet bread for Kae-in, wondering if Kae-in would have skipped dinner while waiting for him. And sure enough, there she is, waiting on the front step.
Even though it’s obvious she’s been waiting for him all night, she lies this time — his lesson may have finally kicked in — and says that she not only ate dinner without him, she even ate his share.
When she notices his bag of dessert breads, he reminds her to have patience. Kae-in protests that someone who withholds food is the meanest kind of person, prompting him to hold the bag higher and out of her reach. LOL. I love immature Jin-ho.
Just then, Kae-in’s stomach grumbles loudly, giving her away.
They end up going out to eat, and Kae-in digs into a fish to put a piece into his bowl. This is a gesture a mother might do for a child, or wife to husband, and shows her level of comfort with him. It’s also rather crude to dig in with one’s fingers and present that to someone, and the fastidious Jin-ho complains. Still, when she makes a move to take it back, he keeps it.
Kae-in asks why he was so late, and Jin-ho lies about working rather than mention In-hee’s name. Kae-in declares that she’s not going to wait to have dinner for anyone anymore. The word “anymore” gives her away, indicating that she must have shown this side of her to Chang-ryul, too. Jin-ho points out that starving while waiting for a guy shows desperation, which is why she got dumped.
On the way home, Kae-in sees a streetside game machine — one of those punching pads to demonstrate strength — which makes her think back to the last time she was here with Chang-ryul. She hits the pad, thinking of Chang-ryul’s admission that he didn’t love her.
Reading her reaction, Jin-ho steps in to stop her. What will it take for her to get over Chang-ryul? He suggests that she accompany him to a party on Saturday, where Chang-ryul will be in attendance. There, she can confront him and declare that she’ll be fine without him. The best revenge is living well and all that jazz.
(Here’s a scene where the acting elevates otherwise plain dialogue. Sohn Ye-jin is at her best when portraying Kae-in’s vulnerability, and I appreciate Lee Min-ho’s way of conveying the conflict between Jin-ho’s curtness and his growing sympathy for her.)
This means we get our requisite makeover montage, wherein Jin-ho takes Kae-in shopping and to the hair salon. The latter scene yields another comic misunderstanding, because Kae-in sees Jin-ho’s friendliness with the very fey hairdresser and assumes this is yet another of his boyfriends.
And then, for the big reveal:
They arrive at the party, where Jin-ho tells her to have faith in him and leads her inside. Kae-in looks quite pretty, but who wouldn’t with that arm candy? Jin-ho actually looks proud to have her on his arm, which totally earns him points in my book.
One aspect about this party scene I enjoy is that the issue of Jin-ho’s sexuality is an underlying presence, but everyone has a different idea and he doesn’t bother to clarify it for anyone. They are just left to their assumptions.
In-hee and Chang-ryul gape in annoyed astonishment. Not only do they feel stirrings of jealousy, they’re both surprised to see them here together. In-hee picks up on Chang-ryul’s surprise and accuses him of wanting Kae-in back now that she’s all prettified.
Jin-ho makes his greeting to Do-bin, who greets Kae-in as well. Do-bin briefly explains how they are acquainted, and Kae-in assures him that she’ll be fine on her own while Jin-ho makes his rounds. Jin-ho uneasily leaves her with Do-bin while In-hee takes him around to identify various business contacts.
I feel a little uncomfortable when Do-bin tells Kae-in that she must be a lot of help to Jin-ho, because of her relationship to her father and all. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about and assures Do-bin that Jin-ho didn’t know who her father was, and they only became friends recently. (This isn’t going to be a problem, is it?)
At least for now, that issue gets shelved while Do-bin comments on the furniture he’d seen her working on when he visited the Sanggojae. To her shock, he offers her a job — he is making a children’s area at the museum, and when he saw her children’s furniture, he thought it was perfect.
Kae-in is about to tell Jin-ho the great news when the party is crashed by an unexpected visitor: Hye-mi. She has come here with Tae-hoon, thinking Jin-ho will appear foolish for coming dateless. In her usual manner, she’s loud and insistent, and attaches herself to Jin-ho’s side right away.
This doesn’t look so great in Do-bin’s eyes, who comments that Jin-ho has brought two dates to the party. Jin-ho knows how this is making him look and starts to explain, but Do-bin excuses himself before he can.
“Tact” is a word with which Hye-mi has no acquaintance, so she pushes aside Sang-jun’s attempts to be diplomatic and insists she’s here with Jin-ho. Hye-mi shoots the evil eye at Kae-in, pestering Jin-ho with questions of who she is.
Jin-ho tries to take Hye-mi out to talk in quiet and excuses himself from Kae-in. Hye-mi is rankled at his solicitousness, because in her world obviously one can only be polite to a lover. Actually, that’s probably how she DOES see the world.
Kae-in starts to explain, thinking that Hye-mi must not know the “truth” about Jin-ho’s sexual orientation. With sympathy, she starts to make the explanation, but Jin-ho steps in and warns her under his breath not to say anything stupid. Kae-in counters that he can’t “hide it” forever, thinking that he’s leading Hye-mi on by not telling her the truth.
Hye-mi fumes, interpreting the scene a different way, and does the classic “Bitch done steal my man” maneuver by throwing a glass of water in Kae-in’s face.
It’s a little odd to see Lee Min-ho playing “normal” after making such a strong statement with an extreme character last year. At first it makes his acting here seem understated, but I think it works well for Jin-ho, who isn’t a mean bastard but just rather cool. His appeal is in the way he softens toward Kae-in, and the chemistry between them works best for me when they’re in a quiet, honest scene. The bickering is fun and all — and what would a kdrama romantic comedy be without lots of bickering? — but their relationship growth shines in the gradual steps they’re making.
I think Sohn Ye-jin is spot-on in showing Kae-in’s hurt, vulnerable side, and in showing Kae-in as rather dense but not entirely clueless. There’s more to her character than being a blundering naif, and many other actresses have missed the nuances she picks up on. It isn’t that she can’t fathom why she was dumped — she understands the reasons on an intellectual level — but she is having trouble accepting that that’s how it ought to be. In my book that makes her more idealistic than dumb.
- Personal Taste: Episode 4
- Personal Taste: Episode 3
- Personal Taste: Episode 2
- Personal Taste: Episode 1
- Cinderella, Prosecutor, Taste: First episode impressions
- Personal Taste (the novel): Part 3
- Personal Taste (the novel): Part 2
- Personal Taste preview clip
- Personal Taste (the novel): Part 1